Private Equity Deals Are Coming to the NHL

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The National Hockey League is the latest major sports league to approve private equity ownership in its teams.

The league’s board of governors on Thursday approved a change to its ownership rules to allow for institutional investors, according to someone familiar with the decision. The NHL joins the NBA, MLS and MLB in making the change.

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An NHL representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NHL’s rules are similar to what other leagues have laid out, according to the person, who was granted anonymity because the details aren’t public. Private equity firms can own minority stakes in a maximum of five different NHL teams (same as the NBA, and one more than MLS). The maximum that a single fund can own in an NHL team is 20%, and no franchise can have more than 30% of its equity owned by investment funds (same as the NBA and MLS). There is a minimum investment of $20 million (same as MLS).

Private equity’s push into major U.S. sports has been one of the biggest sports business developments of the past two years. Faced with soaring valuations and COVID-related financial challenges, the leagues are hoping to make minority sales easier by allowing owners access to capital.

The NHL’s most valuable team is the Toronto Maple Leafs at $2 billion, according to Sportico‘s most recent rankings. The average franchise is worth $934 million.

NHL owners also voted Thursday to approve the sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins to Fenway Sports Group.

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